Kenya is by far the largest tea-producing country in Africa. Last year's crop totalled over?
Kenya is by far the largest tea-producing country in Africa. Last year's crop totalled over 56.5 million kilogrammes. This makes Kenya the world's third-biggest tea-producing nation; although it is still a long way behind India (with 454 million kilogrammes) and Sri Lanka (with some 214 million kilogrammes).
Most of Kenya's tea crop is exported -- 51.5 million kilogrammes went abroad last year. And, after coffee, tea is the country's main cash crop bringing in some 17 million Kenyan pounds (about 15 million pounds sterling). Foreign-currency earnings from coffee provide an annual revenue of around 25 million Kenyan pounds (some 22 million pounds sterling).
The growth of Kenya's tea industry during the last ten years since independence has been dramatic. In 1963, when the nation achieved independence, tea production totalled only 18 million kilogrammes. This 225-per-cent upsurge is mainly due to a substantial increase in yields of mature tea and the implementation of a smallholder-development scheme. Out of a total of 50,000 hectares (about 120,000 acres) under tea 26,000 hectares (about 62, 400 acres) have now been planted by smallholders. A decade before, when Kenya had only 18,000 hectares (about 43,200 acres) under tea, only 3,500 hectares (about 8,400 acres) were controlled by smallholders.
Altogether, about 150,000 people, including families and smallholders, make a living from tea.
SYNOPSIS: Kenya is primarily associated with coffee. But the country is also the world's third-largest producer of tea. At this plantation, at Kericho in Western Kenya, the tea pickers are helping to gather around fifty-six-and-a half-million kilogrammes of Kenya's total annual tea crop.
Altogether, some one hundred and fifty thousand Kenyans rely on tea for their living. More than half the 120-thousand acres of tea plantations in Kenya are owned by smallholders.
Kenyan tea is renowned for its quality. At each stage of the process the tea is carefully checked. In fact, Kenya falls quite a way behind its major two competitors -- India (with an annual crop of around four hundred and fifty million kilogrammes) and Sri Lanka (with some two hundred and fourteen million kilogrammes).
There are fifty eight tea factories in Kenya and plans are well advanced for the manufacture of instant powdered tea.
The tea factories are operated on a continuous production-line system.
It's put onto a conveyor belt and slowly passes through a series of processes which sort, grade, chop and dry it. Kenya's tea industry has boomed dramatically during the last decade since independence in 1963. Then, tea production totalled a mere 18 million kilogrammes -- today's output is an amazing two hundred-and-twenty-five-per-cent increase on that. Most of it is exported -- fifty one and a half million kilogrammes in all. This is earning the country around fifteen million pounds sterling a year and makes tea the second-largest cash crop after coffee, which brings in some twenty two million pounds a year in foreign currency.
Britain is still Kenya's best customer. And, although British tea consumption is gradually dropping, the high quality of Kenyan tea ensures a steady increase in sales to the United Kingdom. Canada and the United States are the other two major customers. But substantial sales are also made to Somalia, Australia, the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Iraq, Yemen and Japan.